Tag Archives: Psychopath

The Perfect Host (2010)

“Frasier”‘s David Hyde Piece turns up the camp for “The Perfect Host,” a perfectly functional black comedy that deteriorates into an incomprehesible mess. Sporting more twists than Snakes and Ladders and more holes than a putt-putt golf course, the end ruins what is otherwise an enjoyable exercise in kitsch.

John (Clayne Crawford) is on the run after a bank robbery gone wrong- and camps out in the wrong house when he enters the L.A. home of Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce,) a well-mannered gentleman with a sadist’s streak. Warwick, a full-blown Schizophrenic with a plethora of imaginary friends, holds John captive, while flashback reveal what led up to John’s crimes.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It kinda is… until “The Perfect Host” falls prey to ‘the curse of the thriller’ and piles one nonsensical plot twist after another. I was reminded of the eye-roll ending of Stephen Soderburgh’s “Side Effects,” which brick by brick tore down the foundation the film had strove for.

Still, there are some great things here. The moments in David Hyde Pierce’s delightfully over-the-top performance where you can practically see him smiling over the script. The scene with Warwick f’ing his imaginary friend in the bathroom. It’s all very fun and funny, until the filmmaker overplays his hand and transforms a fun ride into an unmitigated disaster.

The obviously gay David Hyde Pierce plays the (presumably) straight Warwick here, which works about as well as it does in “Frasier” (which is to say, not at all.) The musical score is more than a little overbearing, but like Warwick, we are willing to play along… for a while.

“The Perfect Host” is a good example of a typical first feature- good in parts, not so good in others, and puzzling as a whole. If it had quit when it was ahead and ended by the 1 hour 10 minute mark, this may have been a different review altogether. As it is, it concludes as a mess, albeit an interesting one. Pity. Pierce deserves a better vehicle than this, and director Nick Tomnay refuses to give him one.

Joshua (2007)

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Holy crap. The kids aren’t all right. The kids aren’t all right at all. And nine-year-old Joshua Cairn (Jacob Kogan) is such a malicious, evil little prick who commits atrocities with such a sense of glee (as gleeful as Joshua’s studiousness and seriousness will allow) that you will not feel anything but hate and loathing for the malignant little tyke by the end. But hey, this movie is pretty good, and for fans of evil-child movies, it’s that much better because “Joshua” maintains a relative sense of realism throughout.

Poor Brad (Sam Rockwell.) No sooner is little newborn Lily out of the hospital than Brad’s wife Abby (Vera Farmiga) starts to mentally deteriorate big-time (Post-partum depression’s a bitch) and child prodigy Joshua starts to act a little… well, homicidal. The family dog, Joshua’s pet hamster, and the class pets at Joshua’s elite private school (an institution that attracts snobs like a cadaver attracts flies) start to meet with fatal accidents, and Brad begins to suspect the worst when the family unite swiftly disintegrates. But could all the mayhem really be being orchestrated by Joshua?

Sam Rockwell is becoming one of my favorite character actors, bringing likability to Joshua’s very flawed dad. Vera Farmiga is a top-notch actress too, but sympathy is in short supply for this shrieking, hysterical woman (I know the horrors of mental illness all too well, but Abby’s out to lunch.) a Netflix user described Kogan’s portrayal of Joshua, the homicidal maniac, as ‘stiff,’ but I actually thought he did a pretty damned good job switching his behavior between that of a wide-eyed schoolboy and a malicious nutcase. This is nothing. Wait until the cretin hits puberty, starts growing hair in strange places. Your problems are going to triple overnight.

As a self-proclaimed fan of every cinematic psychological curiosity under the sun, “Joshua” offered more that enough bizarre insights into human nature. I like how Joshua sets his parents against each other. I love the dynamic of the struggle of power between father and son. Brad’s main concerns are sexual frustration and keeping his family unit from falling to bits. Joshua’s motivations are a little more mysterious. Is destroying his parents his ultimate endgame? Or does he have an even more sinister agenda in mind?

This is the rare movie I wouldn’t mind a sequel to (however,considering the limited release and the child actor’s age progression, the chances are next to nil.) With all the Hollywood hits that get upteen million sequels, here’s sleeper hat feels like it might actually benefit from a sequel and has a nada chance of getting one. Does that seem right? No, not at all, but that’s how the movie industry works. Better get used to it, kid.

“Joshua” achieves it’s goal of being creepy and unnerving, and not just from the initial shock of a small child doing horrible things. There’s definitely a sense of unease at watching the terrible things that happen to the these poor people (except the nine-year-old, may his snotty ass burn in Hell.) It’s a set of disasters that can befall anyone, if a real life Joshua is thrown into the mess, devoid of supernatural or demonic factors. This kind of storytelling is potent and used to good effect here, without the usual crap clichés or plot devices.

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The Snowtown Murders (2011)

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Based on a series of gruesome real-life killings that occurred from 1992-1999 in Australia, “The Snowtown Murders” is an often annoyingly confusing but also creepily compelling thriller that takes it’s subject matter seriously rather than exploit it for cheap shock value. Which is not to say “The Snowtown Murders” is not shocking. It is the story of how an entire town is beguiled by an unhinged psycho, and how that psycho takes an abused boy under his wing and melds him into his protege.

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Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) is an underprivileged Aussie teenager who has pretty shit luck all around. He and his younger brothers are sexually abused by his mom’s boyfriend Jeffrey (Frank Cwiertniak,) and his thuggish older brother Troy (Anthony Groves) rapes him. His mom (Louise Harris) loves her sons but also seems to be unable to rise to the occasion of parenting them. Then she leaves Jeffrey and is introduced to John (Daniel Henshall,) who initially seems to be the full package- good-looking, charming, and great with the kids.

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But something seems a bit ‘off’ about John. He talks constantly about torturing and killing child molesters. I mean, it’s foolproof, right? No one wants to be the one to contradict him. Everyone hates pedos, but John’s rants seem quite obviously to be a part of an obsession. And he’s a man of action, John is. He’s got charts and posters all over his house tracking sex offenders. Then people start disappearing.

Not just sex offenders. Jamie’s amiable druggie friend, Gavin (Bob Adriaens.) Mom’s gay bestie, Barry (Richard Green.) And later, with Jamie’s assistance, that slow kid next door (Robert Deeble.) At first, Jamie seems horrified by the carnage going on practically on his doorstep. Horrified when John instructs him to shoot his own dog. But Jamie is sick of being the perpetual butt of abuse. He thinks becoming John’s assistant is the way to man up and put an end to taking it up the ass (all too literally.) And John is just getting started.

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The amazing thing about this cast was that all of them, besides Henshall as John and Richard Green, are non-professionals simply talked into playing in a movie. This is particularly extraordinary for Pittaway, who forces you to sympathize with his deeply damaged time bomb. Henshall has a genuine glint of malice in his eye that goes beyond ‘play-acting the psycho.’ He looks and more importantly, FEELS dangerous. The closest thing I can think to compare it to is Noah Taylor is Red, White, & Blue. I can’t think of a single actor or actress who seemed to be dragging down the cast.

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It took me a second viewing to really appreciate the movie. The first time, I found it very hard to follow. The second time, I also found it hard to follow, but less so, and I appreciated it’s unnerving combination of gritty urban realism and extreme violence. This is a thinking movie, so you have to primarily focus on it to process what is happening (no tap-tap-tapping away at your ipads, multi-taskers!) I’m glad I thought to see this a second time, even though it was a tough watch. Multiple watches might serve distractable viewers well.

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The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

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    Hands down, the craziest book I have ever read, an unnerving combination of Lord of the Flies and The Butcher Boy that never fails to appall and shock. You will hate Frank Caldhaume, the narcissistic, murderous, deluded, misogynistic teenager at the center of this slim volume, but at the same time you’ll be slightly in awe of his gumption; his refusal to live any semblance of a normal life. Frank lives with his weak, disabled father on their own personal island in rural Scotland.

Frank is by no means an ordinary boy. By the age of ten, he disposed of his younger brother Paul and two cousins without a blink of an eyelash. He wanders the island, engaging in bizarre ritualistic activities that invariably end in the destruction of of the wildlife. He mounts animals’ heads on stakes as sick trophies, and the eponymous ‘Wasp Factory’ is a contraption of singular brutality.

Frank’s half-brother Eric is, so they think, safe and sound in a mental hospital. At the beginning of the book, Eric escapes, leaving a trail of burned and eaten dogs in his wake. Meanwhile, Frank copes with his unusual disability that has made it impossible to live a normal life, not that he’d want to, mind you. Cheeky freak, Frank is.

The only two complaints I have with this book were that it ended rather abruptly, and also (though this was a minor quibble) the circumstances between the Frank Caldhaume’s murders were highly unlikely. I may have thought Frank was a despicable human being, but he made a dynamite narrator. He was brilliant, merciless, and cuttingly articulate. Many aspects of the book were horribly disturbing, but that would not dissuade me from recommending this great book, a brilliant first novel and a penetrating psychological thriller.

One scene in one chapter particularly turned my stomach and made me put down the book in disgust. However, there are moments of black humor that leaven the murky darkness. The telephone conversations between psychopathic Frank and madman Eric, in particular, had me laughing out loud. Frank is not your everyday, mundane protagonist, and you (and he, presumably) would not have it any other way.

The twist at the end of the novel is so relentlessly unmitigatedly weird that I was tempted to do a double take of the words on the page. Iain Banks had quite an imagination, but what a twisted, pitch-black psyche it was. I DEFINITELY will be seeking out more books by this author, with a sincere  hope that they will be every bit as tweaked and creative as this one. A glowing recommendation, weak stomachs need not apply.

Excision (2012)

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What starts out as an alternately eerie and cartoonish look at teenage Suburban Hell eventually morphs into full-blown body horror in “Excision,” a devilishly entertaining horror movie that nevertheless fails to really utilize it supporting cast. Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord,) a misfit aspiring surgeon with a number of unnerving sexual fantasies, lives with her passive, well-meaning father (Roger Bart,) Her smothering religious-fanatic mother (Traci Lords, yes, THAT Traci Lords,) and her sweet terminally ill sister Grace (Ariel Winter of “Modern Family,”) a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer with a heart of gold.

Pauline is a total outcast at school, partially because she is gawky and homely, and due in a large part to the fact that she is aggressively off-putting and creepy, intentionally vomiting on others and dissecting dead animals. She’s not understood, but the brilliance of geniuses rarely is in their own time. Is Pauline a genius? Not really, but you’d rather she attempt surgery on you than, say, Martin of “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence.)”

“Excision” is a little bit Lucky McKee’s “May,” a little bit Brian De Palma’s “Carrie,” a little bit Tom Six’s “…Pede” movies but enough originality to stand on it’s own merit. It has a lot of famous faces and cult actors, including ‘king of filth’ John Waters as a priest (!), Malcolm McDowell as a teacher unsympathetic to Pauline’s deranged antics, and Marlee Matlin as a member of school staff. The movie works because it is over-the-top but remains just believable enough to suspend disbelief. The characters tend to be a little one-dimensional but still find ways to surprise you.

The gore element is mostly thrown at you at the end but also is utilized through Pauline’s bloody fetishistic dreams, which awaken forbidden desires within her. “Excision” is a bit of slow burner which becomes increasingly better after you get accustomed to the tone, which is relentlessly odd but consistent. There’s a gallows humor that made me chuckle throughout. The acting is competent (even from former porn star Traci Lords!) and each player portrays their characters well.

I was wary about watching this because so much indie horror is total shite (“Escape From Tomorrow,” particularly, was a recent disappointment) but I found myself pleasantly surprised at this quirky little horror picture, which refused to take itself too seriously while not stooping to gory slapstick or ridiculousness. I found myself having mixed feelings about the character of Pauline. She’s a total deviant and oddball, but sometimes she does something, or says something in one of her confessions to God that makes you like her- just a little bit, and just for a little while. For those with strong stomachs and open minds, I recommend “Excision” as a surprisingly good horror debut.

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Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

 

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Rougher, rawer, and realer than other horror-killer films of it’s ilk (“The Silence of the Lambs,” “Seven,”) “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” engaged me from beginning to end. Beware- people who don’t want to see the dark, dark side of the human psyche should stay far away from this innovative low-budget classic. The titular serial killer of the title (played by Michael Rooker, who many will no as Daryl Dixon’s no good brother Merle) never stays in one place for long, and the film follows in startlingly true-to-life style as he stays for a while at the home of his worthless white-trash friend Otis (Tom Towles,) and Otis’ sister, Becky (Tracy Arnold.)

(Somewhat) innocent Becky just came out of an abusive relationship and is suckered in immediately by Henry’s sad story, but Otis has less-than-brotherly feelings for his attractive sis. So follows a plunge into darkness, as Henry initiates Otis into his homicidal lifestyle, while Becky, not fully aware of the extent of Henry’s crimes, only falls harder for the taciturn killer.

“Henry- Portrait of a Serial Killer” is extremely creepy with natural-looking actors who are convincing in their roles. There certainly aren’t a lot of sympathizable characters (Becky is ultimately the only one you’ll feel anything for,) but I ended up thinking that Otis was even worse than his murderously inclined buddy. His unscrupulous intentions toward his sister were less than savory, and although he didn’t initially kill anybody, he sure took to the pastime (with Henry’s mentorship) like gangbusters.

Obviously a low-budget movie, this movie actually uses that to it’s asset, and it provides it’s most harrowing scene on home video as something that Henry and Otis have shot on their expeditions. The weird sound effects and general eeriness reminded me of “Angst,” another discomforting movie from the 1980’s which is hard to find on DVD. The ‘bad mama’ trope is a little cliched (the serial killer genre’s take on the refrigerator mother,) but being that it’s true to the events this was based on, I didn’t sweat it too much.

I personally didn’t find this movie too disturbing and I found it captivating in it’s own freaky way, but I understand it won’t float everyone’s boat. People for loads and loads of gore (a ‘la “Dead Alive”) will be sorely disappointed, only the aftermath most of the murders is shown. Just remember the real story was a helluva lot worse (the ‘Becky’ character was Henry’s 12-year-old lover, whereas in this she was a young woman) This is now my 2nd-favorite serial killer movie (yep, “Tony”‘s still the best.) It’s a must-see for horror fans who aren’t afraid of getting their hands a little dirty film-wise.

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Tony (2009)

“Tony” is the rare exception where the term ‘indie horror’ means smarter rather than just cheaper. On one level, it’s a pretty simple premise (man commits crimes, man goes unnoticed until…), but on another, it a phenomenal character study of a man to whom desperation is a constant companion, to whose hobbies others would find sickness and perversion. All that and a highly effective performance by unnoticed actor Peter Ferdinando, as the titular killer.

Tony is a lonely fellow who idles away his days watching low-grade 80’s action films. We see him desperately trying to make a connection with the uncaring world around him, but socialization is hard, especially if your second hobby is, well… killing people.

The murders are sporadic and not overly graphic. Tony just gets fed up with humanity. Don’t we all? Tony is unwashed, dirty, and unemployed. He lives off the U.K. welfare system without having done a real day’s work in his life. He’s haunted by memories of his abusive father. It’s hard not to feel bad for him as he navigates an apathetic London, and hard not to be repulsed as he cohabitants in his filthy apartment with the corpses of his victims.

First you might consider the place of Tony’s action films. Are the driving him to kill? Probably not, the movie suggests. People drive people to kill, the media is scapegoated. I am reminded of an eight-year-old boy who took a break from “Grand Theft Auto” long enough to shoot his elderly caretaker in the head.

All the things you can find obviously wrong with that family (guns unlocked, eight-year-old’s playing restricted games,) and the video game becomes the scapegoat. It’s easy. It’s too easy. Sorry for that tangent. Anyway, “Tony” is grim, and sometimes very gross, but don’t expect a “Human Centipede”-style torturefest.

An interesting fact Tom Six made “The Human Centipede II”‘s lead Laurence R. Harvey watch this movie for inspiration on his character, ‘Martin.’ A great performance inspiring another. “Tony” reminds me of what THC2 could have been if Six had concentrated on character development rather than cutting ligaments and pulling out teeth with pliers.

At the center of “Tony” is Peter Ferdinando’s fearless performance, playing a sick, sick character with a glimmer of empathy. The other actors back him up nicely, although in the end it’s solitary Tony, friendless, unchanging, and scrutinizing a world he can’t quite understand. And indulging in his second favorite hobby, of course.
Rating-
8.5/10

Angst (1983)

So, apparently this movie is super rare and eventually I got my hands on a bootlegged copy (don’t judge me, I’m not proud of it!) The DVD I now own is the short version (at 75 minutes) and has somewhat grainy picture quality. The plot follows the homicidal maniac credited simply as ‘the psychopath’ (eerily played by Erwin Leder,) who is released from prison where he served time for the murder of an elderly lady only to set his sights on a family living in an isolated house.

The main character never kills to steal or pillage. He has no use for cash or fineries, and never knew his victims prior to the homicides. He kills simply because he gets off on it. He has never known a life without cruelty or abuse, and this is neither a rationalization or an excuse. Now I’m going to format this review a little differently than the others. Here are some thoughts:

. “Angst” approaches the serial killer genre a little differently than other films of it’s kind. First of all, the movie makes no effort to sympathize or rationalize the killer’s actions. Unlike, for instance, Gerard Johnson’s “Tony” (a very good movie in it’s own right) where you grow to feel for the psychopath, Leder’s killer is unrelentingly (and perhaps appropriately) loathsome.

. I may be mistaken, but I believe the killer never speaks to any of his victims. We hear his voice through a voice-over narration. This is an interesting filmmaking method, as is the bizarre and jarring cinematography and soundtrack.

. I hate the fact that this guy even got out of prison because he made up some bullshit story about being well. Twice! (the first was for the murder of his mother.) People like this should be kept behind bars for as long as humanly possible, as with all mass murderers and sexual deviants. It’s not worth it, people! (Okay, that’s my inner Conservative talking, but it’s a pretty f’ing valid point.)

. It made me mad when I saw that the wheelchair-bound man-boy (Rudolf Götz) at the home the killer broke into was left alone in the house. I’m sorry, but a man with the IQ of an infant shouldn’t be left to fend for himself while his mom and sister are out shopping! He could fall out of his wheelchair… or, shit his pants… or have his home broken into by a necrophiliac serial killer! See, the unthinkable does happen!

. The stand-out actor was definitely Erwin Leder. Rudolf Götz was good too as the mentally challenged man. Silvia Rabenreither and Edith Rosset were a little weak as the daughter and the mother, respectively.

. I was puzzled and relieved that he *MILD SPOILER* let the dog live. My only guess (besides that he was just such a nice guy, har-har) is that he wanted a relic from the killings. Whatever the reason, I was happy that the cute little daschund did not meet a gruesome (and untimely) end. *END OF SPOILER*

Overall I found this movie interesting because it offers a glimpse into a serial killer’s mind. I didn’t really find it all that disturbing, but others might be horrified by the violence displayed here, so for that reason I would not recommend it to sensitive viewers. The camerawork and soundtrack are another asset- haunting and strange, it adds to the sense of disorientation and horror the movie is trying to achieve. Watch it, if you can find it.

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011)

Is it nuts to expect more from a movie like “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)? With a premise and set-up like this, what can you expect, except for a few good scares and a whole lotta gore? But with an intriguing killer like Martin, I was actually hopeful, and disappointed by the never-ending, and I suppose inevitable, stream of torture that followed.

I guess I would have liked to have seen more Martin, less of the centipede. More scathing black humor, less of the gore? Crazy? Maybe. But my love of all things fuck-upedly psychological led me to wish for an entirely different movie.

I’ll be honest and straight-up and admit that I haven’t seen Tom Six’s controversial original (and at this point I don’t think I’ll bother.) But to those uninitiated few, I’ll describe the original premise to the best of my abilities. Sensitive readers, stop right here. It only goes downhill from here.

In the original “Human Centipede,” two pretty American tourists’ car breaks down while traveling in Germany (of course, the car), and they seek help at the home of an incredibly creepy German doctor, who proceeds to serve them a drugged drink and reveal his master plan (you’ve never seen that one before, right?)

The doctor intends to make a Siamese triplet out of the frightened girls and a third party. Okay, this is where it gets real messy. Using the magic of surgical precision, the the good doc will sew them together mouth to anus, therefore creating one entity. I guess you’re starting to understand the controversy behind these films, eh?

So. “The Human Centipede II.” Listen, now, because the premise is actually pretty creative. Martin, a short, creepy, obese security guard (Laurence R. Harvey) who lives with his abusive mother (Mommy issues- where have I heard that one before…? Okay I’ll stop now) is INSPIRED by the original “Human Centipede” and sets out to make one of his own, but suffers from poor health and limited resources.

Martin, whose father sexually abused him, and whose mother blames Martin for sending hubby to jail (I call it “Precious” syndrome. but it definitely happens), has led an agonizing life full of brutality and misery, and, as it so happens, has a sexual fetish for “The Human Centipede.” On top of that he has a psychiatrist (Bill Hutchins) who wants to have sex with him (ew.)

SO what can Martin do except to make the people around him suffer? And so he does, in a spectacularly brutal manner. And may I just say, Laurence R. Harvey is a FABULOUS actor. Not only does he cope with the fact that Martin doesn’t say a single word throughout the movie, he makes it an asset.

Harvey also makes you feel sorry for Martin, at moments, throughout the movie. And I think that’s where he really excels, making you feel sympathy for such a beastly character. Unfortunately, Laurence R. Harvey (and Martin) are stuck in a movie that doesn’t deserve them, and Vivian Bridsen (who plays Martin’s mother) is as incompetent as Harvey is adept.

The first half of this film is pretty good. It’s deliberately illogical at times (Martin hits his victims full-force with a crow bar and still manages to only knock them out), but the film has a devilish, nightmarish feel, and makes good use of black & white photography. The dialogue is often bizarre and implausible, but this only reinforces the fact that we are living in a nightmare.

After the first half, though, we are thrown into forty minutes of torture which is not only gross, it’s also boring. How do you make torture boring? For dragging it on forty minutes, that’s how. I know, I know, I’m watching “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence),” not “My Dinner With Andre.” Dialogue isn’t the film’s strong point. But is it too much to hope for a little… more of it?

If there’s one thing I got out of this movie, it was Laurence R. Harvey’s performance. I really, really hope this guy makes it. Otherwise, skip this weakly plotted torture fest. Next!